Obama and Trump: Two Presidents, Same God
Mixing politics and religion is a longtime tradition

If Franklin Graham did not actually endorse Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency, he stepped right up to the line — the one separating church and state. Graham was absolutely giddy post-election, when he gave credit to a force greater than the electorate. The evangelist and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse credited the “God factor” for Trump’s poll-defying win.

You might be seeing a lot of Graham, starting at Friday’s inauguration where he is one of the faith leaders invited to offer a prayer for America’s new president. It marks a resurgence of a familiar name when it comes to mingling politics and religion, and a continuation of a tradition in a country that doesn’t have an official faith but celebrates a National Day of Prayer and seems most comfortable with leaders who praise a higher power.

What Would Martin Luther King Jr. Think of Obama, Followed by Trump?
Hypocrisy runs thick in the era of President-elect Trump

President Barack Obama and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have both been praised for their sweeping rhetorical skills, an ability to seize the moment and provide the comfort and inspiration needed. Even their detractors — and they have plenty — would admit this. To live up to his own history, President Obama had a nearly impossible task in his farewell speech on Tuesday night from his adopted hometown of Chicago.

There was also the irony of the week to come, bookended by a celebration of the life and works of King and the inauguration of the next president, Donald Trump. After all, few would place “I have a dream” and “She should be in prison” in the same universe of lofty oratory.

Washington Politics: A Hint of Compromise or North Carolina-Style Dysfunction?
Few signs of a fresh start in 2017

Though the year has just begun, there are already signs that the partisan power struggle in Washington will not benefit from a fresh start or optimistic resolutions of renewal.

“I want to say to the American people: We hear you. We will do right by you. And we will deliver,” said re-elected House Speaker Paul Ryan, as he no doubt relished uniting with President-elect Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Washington to celebrate the consolidation of power by undoing President Barack Obama’s actions of the last eight years.

Despite the Trappings, Holiday Spirit 2016 Looks Iffy
A pause and a little humility are all that’s needed

Since they usually jump-start around Thanksgiving, we are well into the time of Frosty and Rudolph and Tiny Tim fronting animated specials, annual favorites and tinsel-soaked movies of the week that end with the battling protagonists making up under the mistletoe.

Do we believe in Santa? I have to get back to you on that one. But I do have my favorites, all with the theme of redemption: Charlie Brown’s taunting gang recognizing the beauty of his scrawny tree; old Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim in the best version) waking up on Christmas morning, amazed that he indeed has time to be a good man, and, of course, the Grinch with his Grinchy small heart growing three sizes.

Will Big Lies Insinuate Themselves Into Trump Policies?
Troubling times, as the line between fact and fiction blurs

There is the big lie, the ‘Elvis is alive and kidnapped my baby and they were all sucked up into a spaceship’ kind of lie so beloved by supermarket tabloids and fringe websites. “Pizzagate” falls into that category. When you hear a conspiracy theory about underground tunnels and a child-abuse ring involving government officials and a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C., all you can do is shake your head — that is, unless you’re a guy with a rifle who decides to “self-investigate,” and ends up terrorizing a neighborhood.

Then there’s another kind of statement that sounds a little more reasonable than Elvis and aliens, but has a similar relation to the truth — the tales of millions of illegal and fraudulent voters who usurped my popular vote win or cost me that governorship, or of inner cities as unrelieved cauldrons of criminals, minorities and hopelessness. These stories are whispered by those who should know better, then repeated by more and more people in power. Uttered with a straight face, furrowed brow and a wheelbarrow full of fake concern, they insinuate themselves into policy that can change the character of our country.

Still No N.C. Governor-Elect as Voting Charges Echo Trump’s Claims
McCrory may have to concede it’s less about the system than about him

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nov. 8 was weeks ago, and yet the election’s aftermath continues. On the national stage and in the headlines, the winners, losers and those who barely made a dent are unhappy and are doing something about it, from recounts to tweets to repeating debunked conspiracy theories of hordes of illegal voters.

In North Carolina, folks are saying, “Welcome to the club!”

Nikki Haley, Once a Trump Foe, Moves to the Front of the Line
S.C. governor knows how to satisfy the base and when to seize the moment

When South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, all smiles, made a strategic visit to New York last week to meet with President-elect Donald Trump, it was a different vision than most of those parading in and out to see the soon-to-be top guy. She was one of the first potential candidates who was not a white guy in a suit.

And now that the Indian-American Haley has been picked by Trump to be the country’s ambassador to the United Nations, we know why she was smiling. Chosen as the first woman and first minority chosen for a Cabinet-level position, the 44-year-old leader just may be the future of the Republican Party. Those who doubt that definitely have not been following the conservative Republican governor who has charted her own path, satisfying her base yet knowing when to seize the moment even if it means taking a chance.

Hope for a United Future in America’s Divided Past
Will Trump seek Obama’s advice, as he indicated?

When you enter the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, you step into an elevator going down, and through its glass walls, the years flash by, with history moving backward, to the 1400s. Campaign 2016 has often resembled that kind of journey, not moving that far into the past, of course, but far enough to a time when no thin line of civility kept American citizens from lashing out at one another — loudly, and with anger and violence.

That has been the dispiriting price of the long slog to Election Day, Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton, with the country collectively collapsing at the finish line. Still, it would be wise for all Americans to acknowledge that there are miles to go, and that this path is one we have traveled since the beginning, often with one side celebrating and the other deflated — a future of cooperation and compromise downright impossible to imagine.

Trump's Coalition Can't Last
From the start, he disrespected Hispanics, Muslims, African-Americans and women

It wasn’t a question of if, but when. When would demographics become destiny for political candidates hoping to lead an increasingly diverse America, and require outreach more than a photo op with a taco bowl?

‘When’ has not yet arrived.

What Happens to the GOP’s Diversity Dream?
Republicans have to repair divisions exacerbated by the ‘birther in chief’

After the presidential election of 2012, the Republican Party had a plan. Mitt Romney won over a majority of white voters, but failed miserably at attracting the diverse electorate that increasingly is America. GOP would have to stand for something other than Grand Old Party. The Growth and Opportunity Project was born, with one goal being outreach.

As then Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said in stark terms at the Republican National Committee winter meeting in Charlotte, N.C., in January 2013: “We must reject the notion that demography is destiny, the pathetic and simplistic notion that skin pigmentation dictates voter behavior. … The first step in getting voters to like you is to demonstrate that you like them.”

If North Carolina Is Another Florida, That’s Good and Bad
Some ingredients are in place for potential election night nightmares

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina is feeling pretty excited these days. If you’re a political junkie or just going out for a walk, it’s hard to miss the array of top-tier political figures and celebrities eager to tell you how important your vote is. The state is not quite Florida yet, in terms of its role in the president-electing business, but it’s getting there.

North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes are crucial for Republican Donald Trump’s chances and could provide a firewall for Democrat Hillary Clinton as her poll numbers soften in the Midwest and other states that seemed sure things. And then there are downballot races, including a contentious gubernatorial contest and a U.S. Senate race that could determine which party gets to control that often gridlocked group of lawmakers.

Is Hillary Clinton as Cautious as Her Reputation?
Standing with the Mothers of the Movement carries some risk in battleground state

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A persistent criticism of Hillary Clinton has been her overly cautious nature, her reluctance to take bold stands, her preparation to the point of predictability. Kate McKinnon of “Saturday Night Live” has taken these traits to parody on her way to an Emmy. But anyone who sees candidate Clinton frozen in that place hasn’t been paying attention this election season.

Of course, Clinton never will be “wild and crazy,” particularly when compared with her Republican counterpart, Donald Trump, the very essence of both. It’s also true that her views on many issues have remained remarkably stable. But those who say Clinton really doesn’t believe in anything only have to look at how, and how frequently, she has spoken with nuance about race to an electorate anxious about the changing demographics and power.

Wednesday's Presidential Debate: A Reality TV Show Gone Bad
Let's just hope it's not a preview of a very scary new season

It was all going so well Wednesday night, with moderator Chris Wallace keeping the audience relatively quiet and the candidates focused on issues — the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, immigration and gun control.

But then it became a reality TV show gone bad, with the worst cliffhanger ever, when Donald Trump promised to keep the country “in suspense” when asked if he would accept the results of the Nov. 8 election. 

A Defiant Trump, and an Audience to Match His Mood
A Charlotte rally filled with more emotion and urgency

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Is the country more divided than it was at the beginning of the political season? Will it ever heal? When Donald Trump last visited Charlotte way back in August, it was a subdued affair, as Trump rallies go — some signs, the candidate center stage, only a few halfhearted chants of “lock her up.” He was beginning his campaign’s message of outreach to African-American communities, with his awkward refrain of, “What do you have to lose by trying something new?”

Several supporters I talked with then in this diverse city were attracted as much by Trump’s moderate positions on issues such as abortion and LGBT rights as they were by his anti-establishment rage.

Michelle Obama Cuts Donald Trump Down to Size
First Lady is turning into a secret weapon for Hillary Clinton

Michelle Obama is a powerful voice to have in your corner. She is a singular presence who is — at the same time — Everywoman. But if you get on her bad side, if you demonstrate with word and deed that you disrespect the people and things she cares about, watch out.

In Manchester, New Hampshire, on Thursday, a campaign appearance for Hillary Clinton became much more. But I’m sure Clinton didn’t mind. The first lady, with raw and visible emotion, put into words what many have been feeling since a cascade of revelations, video tapes and recorded conversations filled in any possible blanks on the character of Donald Trump, on his treatment of — and judgments about — women.

So the Republican Party Finally Gets Trump?
Little empathy after disturbing comments about minorities, Muslims

On careful review of the statements of Republican leaders — who have finally denounced Donald Trump after his stomach-turning and graphic comments about women came to light in a just-released 2005 video — a particular theme emerges.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape.”  

Faith Journeys Led Kaine and Pence in Different Directions
Conversation on faith was a welcome respite from negative campaign rhetoric

When one reviews the charges and countercharges that have characterized the 2016 presidential election campaign, one topic that’s been left on the fringes is faith. That changed on Tuesday night as two candidates whose faith is central to their political philosophies took to the debate stage.

It’s an argument, at its simplest, on the meaning of justice and mercy, Old Testament and New Testament, and how to live one’s personal faith.

Can Trump Repair His Disconnect With Minorities and Women?
With his promise to hit 'harder' in next debate, that might not happen

Donald Trump went into his first one-on-one presidential debate with his base solidly behind him. But one would assume he also wanted to continue his outreach to minority and female voters. He does, after all, need to win the approval of half of the population, one that is rapidly becoming more diverse. He must have had some plan to persuade those looking askance at the full-throated endorsement from folks such as David Duke or his informal confidante Roger Ailes, chased out of Fox News because of sexual harassment charges.

With Hillary Clinton across the stage from him, any plan he might have had did not work out. In fact, if any African-American or female voter on the fence had warmed up to his drop-ins to black churches or daughter Ivanka’s assurances that he really is a great guy, he threw that right back at them.

Trump’s ‘Charm Offensive’ Continues, as Daughter-In-Law Opens North Carolina Offices
'A very humble, soft-spoken, funny guy,' she says

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Lara Trump, the candidate's daughter-in-law, is just a “Carolina girl,” from Wilmington, she wants you to know, with “good Southern values.” And Donald Trump, “the man I know him to be,” is “a very humble, soft-spoken, funny guy,” with a weakness for McDonald’s.

That was the message of the wife of Eric Trump at a Wednesday appearance opening the first North Carolina offices for the GOP presidential candidate in the important swing state.

Did Hillary Clinton Ace Her 'Job Interview' in North Carolina?
Democratic nominee needs Obama coalition to turn out in battleground state

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s obvious why North Carolina is tantalizing for both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and why the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates each made an appearance in the battleground state this week. Trump was in Greenville on Tuesday (and will be in Asheville on Monday), and on Thursday afternoon, Clinton attended a rally at Johnson C. Smith University, a historically black university in Charlotte, for what its president Dr. Ronald L. Carter called a “high level job interview.”

Clinton, who has embraced her hard-studying, policy-wonk side — seen in her joint appearance with a charismatic President Barack Obama in this same city in July — had clearly done her North Carolina homework as any eager job candidate would. For her, this was an important crowd.